Historically Speaking

Historically Speaking


While reading through some material, in search of some interesting information for our readers this week, I found this article written by A. E. McClain over sixty years ago in the West Union Record (now a part of this newspaper). 

I hope you enjoy it.  I am writing excerpts of it to you just as he wrote it then:

“I had often wondered why our old home creek was named Morgan’s Run, and in Hamill-Kenney’s book, ‘Place Names,’ I found the following: Morganville, a village and Post Office on Morgan’s Run, by B & O Railroad was established in 1826, John L. Morgan, was Postmaster and merchant at this place, hence the name of the stream and Post Office. I failed to find information giving the exact location, but I am of the opinion that the old log house in which Zachariah Offutt lived was the Morgan house.  Old men I knew when a small boy, always referred to the “old log house.”  This leads me to believe that the house was there when they first knew Morgan’s Run.  My research, so far, has not brought to light anything on who first lived up the run, but from what records I have searched, I feel sure few if any lived on the run before 1825.  Most all land grants were in the 1840s, and due to lack of description in deeds, I found nothing in Harrison County records that would pinpoint any special point.

Considering all the information I have read in one place or another, I would say that most of that part of Harrison, which became Doddridge was settled between 1825 to 1850.  My great uncle, Robert McClain, (McClean, Penns.), bought land at the forks of Buckeye and Meathouse, around Blandville and elsewhere, finally settling on Nutter’s Fork, the farm now owned by Johnson Williams.

Census List – 1850

Deputy Marshal John H. McGee, the census taker, listed for Doddridge County, 1850, a total of 2,704 men, women, and children – he, his wife, and three children included.

Listed persons with an occupation other than farmer were the following: 4 millers, 1 sawyer, 1 gunsmith, 6 ministers, 1 potter, 13 carpenters, 1 saddler, 2 shoemakers, 1 painter, 1 stonemason, 2 tailors, 10 blacksmiths, 2 cabinetmakers, 1 wagonmaker, 1 hotel keeper, 4 millwrights, 1 county surveyor, 1 tollgate keeper, 1 deputy sheriff, 1 clerk of the county court, 1 clerk of the supreme court.  All others were listed as farmers.  School teachers were no doubt listed as farmers since the school term at that time was only three months.  Then, too, they were just taking up vacant land.

I have heard many old people say that they didn’t go to school because of the distance they had to go, and at that through the woods all the way.  Too, men and women were few who were qualified to teach, actually, their knowledge then would not exceed that of our average fourth grader academically.  However, their kind of knowledge was quite different from that of our present 4th grader.  School buildings then were very poor.  They were built of logs, had one door, two windows the size of half a window now, with a dirt floor and benches made of split logs.”

It appears that a small snippet is missing because the next sentence begins with the following:

“…flows into Middle Island Creek, who stated that they were born in the countries and states as follows:

1 Wales, 1 Ireland, 1 England, 2 France, 35 Germany, 1 District of Columbia, 1 Vermont, 2 New York, 4 Massachusetts, 4 Connecticut, 1 New Hampshire, 7 Delaware, 1 each from the two Carolinas, 3 Indiana, 1 Illinois, 57 Maryland, 28 Ohio, 2 New Jersey, and 135 from Pennsylvania.  

All others shown were born in Virginia.

Checking the ages of people listed in the census of 1850, I find:

Cornelius Sutton, age 99, from the state of N.J.; Elizabeth Warren, 93, from S.C.; Eva Allen, 89 from PA; Lovina Ash, 81, from PA; Also listed were 18 men in their seventies; 48 in their sixties; and all others below sixty in age.  Most family heads were in their late twenties, thirties, and early forties.”

Morgan’s Run

“Sixty-eight years ago, the writer was born on the left fork of Morgan’s Run, which flows south into Buckeye Creek, thence, in turn, flows into Middle Island Creek, which history says is the most crooked and longest creek in the world.  Middle Island Creek drains parts of several counties.  Its mouth is in Pleasants County, almost within St. Marys, a small town along the Ohio River.  Middle Island Creek meanders through the counties following:  Pleasant, Tyler, and Doddridge.  Its tributaries feed into it and drain parts of Wetzel, Harrison, Gilmer, Ritchie, and Lewis Counties – these in addition to the first three named.  Morgan’s Run is situated between Buckeye and Big Flint Creeks and about five miles northeast of West Union, the seat of Doddridge County.

The B & O Railroad crosses it at its mouth, and so does Route 50, known also as the ‘George Washington Highway.’  Morgan’s Run is formed very much like the letter “Y”.  Its main branch extends one and a half miles, and its two branches extend one and a half miles each.  There are several small branches, and I would estimate all branches added together would not exceed seven miles for the entire creek.  But believe it or not, when I first remembered the old home run, there were 350 people living there.  I attended school there in the old two-room, two-story building which still stands, but is not now being used for school purposes.  Delbert Powell of Big Flint was my first teacher, and the others were Idel Nutter, Maude Heaton, Elizabeth Stutler, John T. Williams, and Newt Frashure.  The first and latter two named taught more than one term.  During my school years on Morgan’s Run, the average number attending was 88-90 pupils, and they were pretty evenly girls and boys.”

Young Years At Home

“The sketch I have roughly drawn showing the approximate location of each family on the Run at that time is not needed by we boys and girls that were born there and lived there for ten years or more, as we had explored 

the entire territory, streams, and ridges, also the dark dismal hollows, rock-cliffs, etc.  We knew every chestnut tree, and also every apple and peach orchard.

I have reason to believe that I knew more about the ridges surrounding Morgan’s Run than any other boy of my age, for I first began to go with my grandfather, Benj. Pernell, fox hunting both night and day when but seven years of age.  Wind Knob was located at the head of England’s Run, and Jockey Camp Run, and was an ideal place to listen to the hounds while driving the fox.  Another place was on the Orr farm, a high knob east of the ridge back of Dick Ford’s home.  There were several places where men gathered to enjoy the chase, but the two named were favorites.

My grandfather must have been born on a ridge, for most of his travels were by following the ridge to the closest point to the destination.

I will never be able to understand why Granddad would take the long point below the Right Ball place to the ridge, cross the Howells Run Road in the low gap near the home of “Beaver” John Knight, and on around the back of the Jesse Martin farm to the Orr farm, then retrace our steps along toward morning, dog tired and hungry and very sleepy.  I first knew Morgan’s Run close 62 years ago, not so well, but I had been on most of the creek as my Dad sold books and fruit trees, and I went with him many times.

At the time, there were no bridges crossing the creek at any point and there were just a few footbridges, a log scored and hewn.  Long spans were anchored with heavy rocks.  The first 300 yards of the Morgan’s Run Road was in the creek, coming out by the group of willows where the old bull wheels from the first well drilled on the run were left, and the next place the road was in the creek bed just beyond the home of Abe Leatherman, for another 300 yards.  On up at the lower end of the Davisson farm, there was perhaps another 300 yards of the creek used as road, perhaps 100 yards further on the road crossed the right-hand fork.  There was located our school, U.B. Church, and the only store on the run, kept by Ed Swentzel, an old bachelor.  The Post Office was located in the store, and Rev. George Holden was the Postmaster.  It was originally named for Rev. Holden, Holden, and within a short time it was changed to Harlin.  Why this name was selected, I never knew, but I do remember that my family had Box No. 33 from the start and Dad gave it up in 1919 when he and the family moved to Clarksburg, W. Va.

Due to the Post Office being in the store, Rev. Holden also clerked in the store.  I was there many times with older members of my family, and I recall that Rev. Holden always managed to supply me with a few sticks or drops of candy.  He was my friend then and will remain so.  He has been deceased now for close to sixty years.  Whenever I am back on the run, I think of him.  He was the minister that performed the marriage ceremony for my parents back in 1886.  Dad’s old Bible gave this information, and also, that John Hitt and Sarah J. Ash, were witnesses.

Seventy-six years have passed since that ceremony, and both my parents have been gone more than forty-one years.

Creek beds on the right-hand forks were used in many places as roads, but only for short distances.  After a hard rain, the streams were out of banks, and it was perilous for young folk to travel, due to the swiftness of the water.  I recall being caught once and almost failed to get home.  I was riding the old mare and had the six-week-old colt along.  When crossing the right-hand fork by the store, the colt would have drowned if not for Loremus Davis getting ahold of its halter.

As a young boy, growing up on Morgan’s Run, I have found many arrowheads, no doubt used by Indians to kill the animal that supplied them with their meat.  Some were used to defend their lives against their enemy, and most of them were found close to my old home site.  I mention this because it was what started me to think of the past and try to imagine under what conditions the Indian boys lived, and also, the white boys who came to Morgan’s Run to settle with parents there.

I have heard my grandparents relate what things were like when they first moved to the run, but one can only imagine what conditions were like when their parents and grandparents arrived in what is now W. Va. ninety years ago, when mother and her parents came to Morgan’s Run to make their home, the land my grandfather, Benj. Pernell, purchased from Loman W. Hickman, was wooded, with no cleared land at all.  All those that first settled on Morgan’s Run were faced with the same problem, clear what land you needed to raise crops, build your home from logs, split rails to build fences, and sow seed to have the pasture needed.  They had to cut the wood needed for fuel to heat their home and kill the animals that ran wild in the woods for meat to eat.  Cornpone was the bread for your table, fruits were not available yet, so vegetables were the remainder of the meal. 

Money then was an item that was very scarce.  Farm products were taken to West Union and traded for sugar, salt, coffee, spices, and perhaps a bag of flour.  And don’t forget about those two boxes of essence that added greatly to your coffee’s strength and taste, only five cents.  Back then, rice and rolled oats were unknown, and so were all other cereals that we know so well.  We, who are now nearing seventy years of age (in 1961), arrived in time to slightly take part in the fringe area of those days.  Grandmother still had the utensils used for cooking and baking in the large fireplace, when I can first remember.  She did some baking with them, so we kids could see how it was done.

Morgan’s Run was my home for close to eighteen years, and my thoughts wander back there often.  I will not attempt to put into words my thoughts, but to my mind come the faces of men and women I once knew as neighbors.  They are all gone, never to return, and many of their children have also passed away.  I wonder who holds the title of all the old men now living there?”

I hope you found Mr. McClain’s reminiscences as spellbinding as I did.  We have lost so many of these kinds of stories.  If you should have any of these kinds of stories handed down from your family elders, treasure them for the priceless gifts they are and if you feel generous, share them with us.  Just email a copy to me at doddridgecou[email protected] and with permission, I’ll publish it. 

God Bless

Patricia Richards Harris, President

Doddridge County Historical Society

304 873-1540 or 304 266-1291

Morgan’s Run 

Primary School 1906

This was Walter Swentzel’s first school. An influential, able, and respected teacher and farmer. Mr. Swentzel was the first Doddridge County Superintendent of Schools under the State’s County Unit plan of organization more than forty years ago. I could not get all these children identified but Mary Hickman and Preston Holden pointed out the following: Erly Pernell, Tom Davis, Griffin Kinney, Elizabeth Smith, Josie Randolph, Hattie Davisson, Bessie Holden, Ova Yerkey, Ila Davisson, Earl Swentzel and children from the Martin, Ball, and Hitt families. (Picture courtesy of Kip Swentzel.)